Farm Of The Week: Family who are stars of the show

The Fawcetts
The Fawcetts
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In July this year home-bred maiden heifer Kissthorn Gipsy became Reserve Junior Champion British Blonde at the Great Yorkshire Show.

Whilst Jimmy Fawcett is back showing three commercial cattle today and tomorrow at Countryside Live his ambitions for a future in agriculture lie on the other side of the livestock marketing world.

“He wants to be an auctioneer,” says his father, Carl Fawcett of Kissthorn Farm, Sand Hutton.

“Last week he went along to an event also held at the Great Yorkshire Showground.

“It was all about careers in the rural community. Auctioneers Harrison & Hetherington were there and they offered the opportunity for people to try their hand at selling. Jimmy had a go and received some encouraging feedback. He already had the job in mind but it gave him even greater assurance that this is where his future will be.”

Jimmy is one of three sons and a daughter to Carl and Kathy Fawcett. His elder brothers Ed, 24, and William, 22, will also be on hand this weekend assisting their father with the team of 10 Texels entered in the sheep classes.

It seems the Fawcett’s sons have negated the problem that once faced many farmers in trying to find roles for all their offspring on a family farm. Only one of the three is set to stay, and even Carl’s 12 year-old daughter has a plan in mind. There are certainly no flies on this farming family.

“Ed works with me on the farm at home and Will has the job he has always wanted, working with a large pedigree flock on Lilburn Estate in Northumberland. He’s working with farm manager Dominic Naylor who was farm manager with Bishop Burton College. Jimmy has already decided what he wants to do and Lucy has plans to open up a tea room.”

Kissthorn Farm is situated east of the village of Sand Hutton just a short distance from the A64. It runs to approximately 450 acres of which 300 belong to the Church Commissioners, with the rest owned by Carl and Kathy. The farming operation is a mix of arable and livestock. Cropping is made up of 150 acres of winter wheat, 100 acres of winter barley, and 50 acres of oilseed rape. The cereals are largely used as fodder and the remaining acreage is down to grass that provides hay and silage for the cattle.

Success in the show ring with cattle rather than sheep is a relatively new experience for Carl who has built a healthy reputation for Texel sheep at agricultural shows.

“Our Texel flock is still going strong. We have 160 Texel commercial ewes and another 30 pedigrees. We’ve done well with them for a number of years with great success particularly in the carcass competition at the Great Yorkshire Show which we have won three times, and in the live butchers’ lamb classes.

“We’ve also won with them for what may be a record four years in a row at the Christmas Fatstock Show at Malton Livestock Market. We also have a small flock of 60 Swaledale ewes that are put to the Blue Faced Leicester tup.” Carl always had an interest in cattle but it is his sons who have become the driving force behind the change in farming policy at Kissthorn over the past five years.

“We had been buying store cattle and fattening for sale at Malton where we sell all our fatstock but the price of store cattle didn’t leave much for us after we had grown them on. We decided to start trying to breed more of our own stock and to grow the suckler herd. We made a move towards British Blondes because of its easy calving, and also because I simply liked the breed.

“Our first Blondes came from the Thistlegrove dispersal sale held by renowned breeders Edwin and Irene Pearson of Whitby in 2007. We now have a herd of 30 suckler cows with half of them being pedigrees.”

The recent purchase of a new stock bull, 22-month-old Shann Valley Fletcher from Savage Brothers in Northern Ireland is proof that the Fawcetts are not standing on ceremony. They are committed not just to maintaining the level they have reached but to improving their herd even further.

“We have used Criffel Braveheart for three years. We bought him from Ewan Burgess’ Criffel herd at Borderway Mart in Carlisle. We have shown him and his offspring. They have provided us with significant success but you must keep moving forward. We’re very particular about our pedigrees and anything we don’t like we will send to slaughter. We don’t believe in selling an animal to another breeder that we wouldn’t want to buy ourselves.”

Their commitment to quality has been underlined during this summer’s agricultural show season. Jimmy’s proudest moment, not withstanding, Carl has also been pleased with their commercial and pedigree results at Otley, Lincolnshire, Ryedale, Malton and Rosedale shows.

“We get to as many as we can, including supporting the smaller shows. We’ve had a great season and hopefully we’ll do all right at Countryside Live. It’s a tremendous event that just keeps growing.”

Next month also sees another livestock event where the Fawcetts will be out in force. The North East British Blonde Society Calf Show will take place at Thirsk Livestock Centre on Saturday, November 10 and Kathy, who is the secretary for the club, urges all members and those interested in the breed to take a look.

Five years ago Carl and Kathy started their first diversification into tourism when they opened Foxhill Park Caravan Site. It’s situated at Claxton, less than a mile away from their family home, and they have a present capacity for 38 caravans plus a small camping site. This year’s weather hasn’t helped, but they are thankful that their first four years have brought about regular trade.

“The weather affects everything, farming and holidaymakers. We decided to take the plunge because we weren’t making too much out of farming and it didn’t look as though we were ever going to. My mum and dad (Bob and Wendy) gave great support in helping us out when we first got going, but I think we’re now in the swing of it.

“The site is in a very quiet area and we’ve found that’s what most of our customers are looking for. They are trying to get away from their urban life and simply want to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the countryside.

“We finish the current season at the end of this month and start getting things ready for next year. We start again on March 1.

“It’s been an education for us. We’re enjoying the challenge of making it work, but I’d still say it’s easier to put up with cattle than people!”